2016 IPL: Sunrisers’ abounding sunshine

Sunrisers Hyderabad was the least demonstrative of the teams but emerged triumphant by playing percentage cricket.

Sunrisers Hyderabad players celebrate with the trophy after defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final of the 2016 IPL at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

How does a team win a match? By out-batting its adversary, or by bowling its opponent out? Sunrisers Hyderabad did both. The team first put up a formidable total and then its bowlers exerted pressure on the rival batsmen who, barring the openers, imploded, as the Hyderabad outfit emerged victor in the 2016 Indian Premier League.

When the IPL season kicked off, not many had backed Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, in the end, many boasted, “I told you so”.

 

The truth was that, barring the team itself, there were not many who believed the Hyderabad franchise would go on to win the title ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The setting was perfect for RCB: a third appearance in the final, and playing in front of its home crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The team, however, had not accounted for the resilience and planning that marked SRH’s march though the tournament. V. V. S. Laxman, the Sunrisers’ mentor, summed it up aptly: “We don’t have superstars. Everybody is an important member.”

Though SRH won the title this year, the tournament belonged to Virat Kohli. Four centuries and an aggregate of 973 runs — the highest in a single IPL season — reiterated the batsman’s rising stature in world cricket.

Daniel Vettori, the RCB coach, put Kohli’s performance in perspective. “He has been phenomenal. Probably the main reason we are in the final is because of his performance — not only with the bat but also his leadership. I think when you have got a guy at the top of the order who takes that much control and his performances are that great, it allows things to flow from there. Obviously a great captain does that — he leads with his performance and Virat has been exceptional not only with batting, but fielding and leadership.”

Kohli’s batting and leadership qualities were the talking point of the IPL this season that saw a new champion in SRH. He inspired RCB with some astonishing knocks, as the competitive flavour improved in the second half of the tournament. The matches were contested fiercely, and teams with better temperament obviously made it to the playoffs.

For RCB, the over-dependence on Kohli and AB de Villiers was obvious, since Shane Watson and Chris Gayle proved inconsistent. AB supported Kohli, and K. L. Rahul grabbed his chance too. When it came to the big stage, Watson and Rahul floundered, as RCB finished second best after promising to run away with the final.

For SRH, the motivation came from an old warhorse Ashish Nehra. “I do what comes best to me. I share my experience and try and set an example,” he had humbly said. He missed a few matches towards the end of the League due to a knee injury, but he had passed on the tricks of the trade to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman, who bowled superbly and consistently.

Nehra, Bhuvneshwar, Rahman and Barinder Sran proved to be the difference between SRH and the rest. For skipper David Warner, it was convenient to count on them, and the team looked to post decent totals that its bowlers could defend. This teamwork was the feature of SRH.

 

True the team did not have any superstars, but it had players who came up with super performances. The seamers served SRH with distinction even as the slow bowlers played their part to the best of their abilities.

Gujarat Lions deserved a pat for the manner in which it planned its approach. A new combination meant pressure on skipper Suresh Raina, but he did not disappoint. He led by example and inspired the players who had specific roles to perform. Gujarat Lions was not a glamorous side, but it won the hearts of the fans by making it to the playoffs.

Kolkata Knight Riders paid for its over-confidence. Besides, the loss of form of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa let KKR down in the decisive phase of the League. To expect Yusuf Pathan to bail the team out regularly was naive because of his style of play. It is not possible to club every bowler you face, and Pathan lost his composure at some crucial stages of the tournament. The absence of Andre Russell towards the end hurt the team big.

In the bottom half of the table, teams such as Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab showed a lack of big-match temperament. Daredevils invested heavily in a player like Pawan Negi, and all that he managed was 57 runs in six innings. If there was logic in his selection, it hardly showed since he bowled a mere nine overs in the eight matches that he figured in. The Delhi outfit continued to disappoint despite the presence of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan as the guiding force.

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Mumbai Indians, not a very popular team in the League, did not gain from the presence of in-form batsman Rohit Sharma. The skipper did his best to lift the spirits of a side that had a super-heavy support staff but not the firepower on the field to make the optimum use of expert guidance from Ricky Ponting and Jonty Rhodes.

The team did not possess the bowling to tame its opponents. There was hardly any surprise when Mumbai did not make the playoffs.

For Rising Pune Supergiants, the League would serve as a harsh reminder of the miscalculations the team made. The team avoided ending up at the bottom, thanks to a typical finish by skipper M. S. Dhoni, who hammered 23 runs (22 off the bat and one wide) off the final over of Axar Patel (Kings XI Punjab) to avoid the embarrassment. Nothing worked for the Supergiants, which was well served by Ajinkya Rahane and leg-spinner Adam Zampa. R. P. Singh was the biggest disappointment of the League — a stark reminder to Dhoni that performance, not reputation, was important.

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Overall, the IPL was a controversy-free tournament even though there was negative publicity when the court ordered the matches to be shifted out of Maharashtra because of the drought situation. Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur lost a few matches but could have done little to salvage the situation because the public sentiments were in favour of the matches being shifted out of the parched state. There was merit in SRH emerging champion for the first time. It was a reward for the collective effort put up by the team, and in particular the performance of Warner and his bowlers. In addition, the support staff of Tom Moody, V. V. S. Laxman and Muttiah Muralitharan deserves to be complimented for the wonderful work behind the scene. Sunrisers Hyderabad was the least demonstrative of the teams but emerged triumphant by playing percentage cricket.